Stop evaluating courses and start evaluating learning
Shaping the future of learning
Evaluation is yet again in the limelight as we hear and read how important it is, and how L&D teams aren't quite measuring up. Yes, there's a need for evaluation to get more aligned to performance measures and business KPIs; but actually, we think there's a slightly different issue afoot. And one that Kirkpatrick can't help you with. We need to stop evaluating courses, and start evaluating learning.
Start looking in all the right places
If you've read recent reports from Towards Maturity, CIPD, and Deloitte, you'll see the fresh focus on learning evaluation. It's ranked as highly important and a key priority for 97% of L&D teams. Yet, we hear over and over about the gap between what should be measured and what, historically, is measured by L&D teams. Reports lay out how the majority of evaluations still only scrape at surface level with reactionary learner reviews, and fail to dig deep into actual performance improvements.
This is certainly something that needs to be fixed; and you could argue that the whole of learning needs to get much more performance aligned, not just the measurement of it.
But actually, at its core, we think there's a whole different issue nibbling away.
A lot of discussions around evaluation and many of the traditional evaluation methods focus too much on the idea that you provide people with a piece of learning, and then evaluate it when it ends.
What's wrong with this?
Fine if it's a course (although, back in the days of courses, we weren't brilliant at evaluating them in a meaningful way anyway!). But, learning just isn't like this. At least, not anymore.
The whole learning landscape has shifted; and if you only measure your tiny piece of learning, you're missing out on the real story. Chances are, the formal learning you've provided makes up less than 10% of how someone actually learnt to change their performance.
In the world where learners pull on what performance support they need, when they need it, and access content and support well beyond the realms of formal or L&D provisions, learning is much more evolutionary, constant, and out of our control.
To evaluate one piece or one course, at one point of time, is to take a slice, but miss out on the whole pie.
And now for some good news
First, evaluation doesn't have to be a big onerous undertaking that means that you spend the next year looking at spreadsheets. We don't believe you need to go to the nth degree nor make your eyeballs hurt. Especially not if we're suggesting you need to scan a much wider learning landscape.
Second, evaluation is your friend. It's not a foe out to get you, or an awkward aquaintance your boss is making you spend time with. It's a friend that shows you which way to go, and helps you decide what to try out next. But it needs commitment - a friend for life. You shouldn't pick it up and put it down whenever you want.
Third, we've put together a new evaluation framework and have client evaluation examples we can share to help explain a modern way to evaluate learning.